Resident Evil: Code Veronica for Sega Dreamcast
Developed by Capcom

I can't say I'm a fanatic for the Resident Evil series, but I have enjoyed playing most of them. The original Resident Evil was never entertaining enough (and a bit too frustrating puzzle-wise) for me to get all the way through, but I played enough to get interested. Resident Evil 2, however, sucked me right in. Improvements in gameplay, a serious improvement in voice work (ask any veteran gamer about the sheer awfulness of the voice work in the original RE), a much more compelling storyline, and some of the best graphics and use of CG movies that had been seen at the time made RE2 an instant classic.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis played a bit of havoc with the series' timeline and continuity, but even better graphics than RE2, and even better CG scenes than the previous game made it a keeper. RE3's main problem was the wild and frustrating difference between the two difficulty levels. The "easy mode" was ridiculously so, starting you off with an army's worth of ammo and weapons, while the normal mode began you with a knife.

Couple that with the constant appearance of the Nemesis in the title (a nearly indestructible monster that attacked several times during the game, often at the most inopportune times) and the normal mode pushed any gamer to their limits. Indeed, it pushed me beyond mine, as I've never been able to finish it in normal mode.

My rambling aside, any series that has had the sustained success that Resident Evil has was destined to continue on into the next generation of gaming consoles. This inevitability was confirmed with the release of Code Veronica for the Dreamcast.

The Resident Evil series began in Japan as a game called Biohazard, and all the games released over there have carried that name. Differences between the Japanese and American versions were generally very small, so the import version was a good barometer of what to expect from the domestic release. Biohazard: Code Veronica was released in Japan several months before its Resident Evil counterpart hit here in the States, and the larger gaming publications that received copies of the title were unanimous with their accolades. After playing the American version, I can't say that I have any reason to disagree.

People have been carrying on for a while about no game yet exploiting the true power of the Dreamcast hardware. Well, those people can shut up now. Capcom has already shown a great ability with CG movies, but the opening of Code Veronica may be the most breathtaking sequence ever; at the very least, I've never seen anything like it. It begins with Claire running down a window-lined hallway while a helicopter hovers outside. As she runs, the helicopter opens fire with its machine gun, raining glass down on Claire. This CG segment goes for some time, with Claire pulling out moves that would make John Woo or Jackie Chan squeal with delight.

Eventually, Claire finds herself captured and placed in a jail cell, but soon enough, a sympathetic stranger releases her in another CG sequence, and yet another sign of the muscle of the Dreamcast is revealed. The switch between CG action and actual gameplay is almost unnoticeable; in fact, the only way to tell is to watch the two very narrow black letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the screen; when they vanish, it's time to play.

The gameplay itself should be second nature to any veteran of the series. New players might find it tough initially, but eventually, it will click. There are a few added tweaks as well. The 180-degree quick turn from RE3 is still there, and still clumsy to use. There is also an auto aiming function; when you pull the trigger button, you will automatically aim at the enemy nearest you. Another version of this occurs when you are equipped with the dual semi-automatic pistols. If two or more enemies are available for targeting, you will target one with each gun. Pretty sweet.

But you'll be too busy drooling over the other aspects of the game to even notice the gameplay. The graphics, I can say without hyperbole, are absolutely amazing, stunning, fantastic, incredible and life-altering. Oh, wait, I said WITHOUT hyperbole. Well, then the graphics are simply amazing, stunning, fantastic and incredible. Capcom had mastered beautiful 2-D backgrounds in the earlier games, but with the power of the Dreamcast console, they now can fully realize everything in 3-D, and it benefits greatly. No longer do items stick out blatantly, they blend in. A watchful eye and diligent checking are a must to make sure you find that last box of handgun bullets.

Other nice results of the move to full 3-D are the elimination of some switches between camera angles. In some areas, if you walk around an object or corner, the camera will quickly pan to its next vantage point, rather then doing a snap switch. The characters and monsters are also breathtakingly done, especially in the CG sequences. Claire should soon be worshipped along with Lara Croft as one of the most perfectly realized females in a game. One of the other characters Claire meets along the way, Steve Burnside, should appeal to the females out there, since he's an absolute ringer for Leonard DiCaprio. The sound in the game is, as you might expect by now, magnificent. The sound in the previous games was always great; each step always sounded right, whether it was the hollow clank of at metal catwalk, or the unsettling squishing of some unidentified bodily fluid.

The Dreamcast just makes it that much better, and adds more subtleties and nuances that leave you in awe. Part of the game takes place in the rain, and you can hear it hitting roofs and running in gutters. Later on, you'll actually hear the quiet buzzing of bugs around a streetlight. It's even more impressive with a surround sound setup.

But the driving force of the Resident Evil games has always been the story. The constantly unfolding saga of the mysterious Umbrella Corporation has nearly reached epic status. RE:CV picks up the story a short time after the end of RE2. Claire Redfield, one of the two main characters from RE2 (the other, Leon Kennedy, isn't addressed here), after surviving the destruction of the Umbrella facility in Raccoon City, has traveled to Europe in search of her brother Chris, who led the S.T.A.R.S. team on the mission in the original RE. As you might guess, lots and lots of zombies and other gruesome things await her.

The examination of the story is deeper here than in any of the other games, courtesy of several excellent and quite lengthy CG scenes. More and more details are revealed as the game progresses, building the suspense in a very film-like manner. By the end of it all, you'll find yourself tempted to go back and replay the old games, so you can relive it all again.

Damn, what a great game. When I first bought my Dreamcast, I felt like a bit of a fool, since I'd spent all this money, and there just weren't any games out there that I had really connected with. I consoled myself with the thought that this system was just too powerful to sit around for long without some outstanding games being produced. (After all, how long did it take for people to figure out what the Playstation could really do?)

Well, Capcom has come to my rescue with a magnificent achievement, and a game I'll be more than willing to grant the title "masterpiece." If you own a Dreamcast, buy this game right now. If you don't own a Dreamcast, but you love the RE series, do whatever it takes – sell quarts of blood, donate semen, raid Gramma's purse – just get this game.

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Review by ICE